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Female Athletes Sidelined As Biological Male Advances To Olympics To Compete In Women’s Weightlifting

Laurel Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard, who previously competed in male weightlifting competitions, will be the first man to compete in a female event at the Olympics.


Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old biological male, will compete for New Zealand in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Hubbard competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before changing genders in 2013. Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87+kg category, becoming the first male to compete in a female event for the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee changed its rules in 2015 to allow transgender athletes if their testosterone level is shown to be 10 nanomoles per liter or less for at least a year prior to competition. That criteria is 5 to 33 times higher than the average testosterone levels in biological females, which is considered to be between 0.3 and 2.4 nanomoles per liter. The IOC’s rules also allow males to compete in female events without undergoing surgery to remove their testes, the Guardian reported. 

Former New Zealand weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs, who was forced to drop a category at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 to make room for Hubbard, spoke out against the Olympic decision.  

“When I was told to drop the category because Laurel was obviously going to be their number one super, it was heartbreaking, like super soul-destroying,” Lambrechs told TVNZ. “And it’s unfortunate that some female, somewhere is like, ‘Well I’m going to miss out on going to the Olympics, on achieving my dream, representing my country because a transgendered athlete is able to compete.”

Katherine Deves, co-founder of Save Women’s Sports Australasia, told Reuters the IOC’s transgender policy puts women athletes at a huge disadvantage. 

“Males do have a performance advantage that is based on their biological sex,” Deves said. “They outperform us on every single metric – speed, stamina, strength. Picking testosterone is a red herring … We are forgetting about the anatomy, the fast, rich muscle, the bigger organs.”